Monday, August 31, 2009

The wrong lesson...

Title page to Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning...Image via Wikipedia

I was reminded of a school experience of @stopstalkingme from many many years ago when I read this blog post at Zen Habits: Education Needs to Be Turned on Its Head

People often grow up to be competent learners, and achieve great things, after going through the traditional school system. But this is in spite of the system, not because of it. We are pretty adaptable people, inherently curious, and we can learn without an authority, but the current school system tries to beat this down. It usually fails to some degree, but to the degree it succeeds, it harms people.

The time this reminded me of was 18 years ago when @SSM was in the 2nd grade. She had written a long story, like 12 pages long, and it was a wonderfully entertaining story about a squirrel. It was a mystery with a surprise ending. I most definitely didn't see it coming.

She turned in her story to her teacher Mrs. Hood, and what she got back was not a warm response to a wonderfully told story. What she got back was that she hadn't stayed within the lines with her handwriting. She was told to copy her story over. She turned it in again and was told, "Not good enough. Do it again." This happened four times. It was a great lesson for @SSM. When I asked her what she had learned from this experience her answer was, "I have to write shorter stories."

Eighteen years later I can say that she used to write some great stories. She doesn't write stories anymore. Mrs. Hood, and the education system drove that desire right out of her. I can remember being totally pissed at the time that the system had their priorities upside down. Those priorities are still upside down today, and I don't think it can be fixed. We can only hope that something new and wonderful will emerge from the ashes.

If I was an advocate of Appreciative Inquiry this story would never be told. Instead we'd be talking about the wonderful citizens we've created by teaching them to stay within the lines. How sad!

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Steve Judd said...

Until fifth grade, I went to an inner city NJ school. They advanced a couple of us in math, such that by the time I moved to a neighboring suburban district, I was two grades ahead in math class. However, at the suburban school, they wouldn't let me cross the street to take math classes at the junior high, so I had to sit in the hall doing math workbooks for two years until I leveled out with my classmates. I spent most of my sixth grade math time shooting hoops with the gym teacher who had a free period during that time.

Lesson - stick with the herd.

Unknown said...

Kevin, I was pleasantly surprised when my 8th grader described her current English project. Teacher told them if project was exceptional and creative, then the teacher would drop the requirements of the project. My daughter has worked very hard. I have to admit her writing is upbeat (her goal was to give it punch), and some of the best descriptive creative writing she has ever done.

I love the fact that the teacher is giving them leeway to be creative. I love the energy my daughter is putting into the project.

Anonymous said...

I was following your story, and nodding along---we all have had teachers like Ms. Hood. Mine happened to be Ms. Kenner in biology. And it’s easy to sympathize with your concern. But I was hit by a broadside by your last comment about Appreciative Inquiry. I think you’ve lashed out at AI rather almost more than you did at Ms. Hood. While only mildly aquainted with AI, I don’t think it’s intent is to turn a blind eye to mistakes. Nor is it a rehash on the power of positive thinking. Instead, it’s an alternative to just focusing on the mistakes like Ms. Hood made. Imagine if Ms. Hood had attended an Appreciative Inquiry process conducted by her School District on fostering better writing. My hope would be that the district’s program would be all the better for focusing on the possibilities and not just the problems.

Kevin Gamble said...

Great comment Jeff. It made me smile.

I have yet to lash-out. That's still to come.

And I do hope you know I'm just having some fun with this.


Jeff and DeLynn said...

Yes, all in fun here! It's a great way to bone up on things when you have to come up with snappy comments. Perhaps your AI friends will chime in. Let the lashing begin!
Hope your bike rides went well. Not many miles put on here, except for a brief circumnavigation of Suttle Lake last weekend.